Surviving Annecy Festival – Top Tips from a Virgin

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Every year, the picturesque town of Annecy in France hosts one of the biggest animation festivals in the world. As an Annecy virgin this year, I thought I’d share my top ten tips of what I learnt and what I would do differently next year for anyone thinking of making the trip next year.

  1. Get a hostel/hotel/apartment right in the middle of town

The town centre is utterly beautiful – one of the most amazing places I have seen. But leaving this spectacular fantasy bubble to walk down a motorway, then up a steep muddy hill to your hotel tends to detract from the magic. Plus, you will no doubt be left with the odd two hour gap in the middle of the day in-between animation screenings so it’s handy to be able to pop back, otherwise you end up spending most of the day drinking beer (sounds shit, I know!).

  1. Book your hotel early

Don’t under estimate how quickly all the rooms get booked up in the centre. If you know you are definitely going, book your accommodation as soon as they announce the dates. Even if you don’t have your accreditation yet.

  1. Plan out what screenings you want to watch way in advance

The animations screened at Annecy are a mixed bag. You’ll go from watching an adorable hedgehog building a house out of straw, to an artistic interpretation of a psychotic axe murder. It’s really worth looking in advance and booking the screenings that are right for you. Plus, the most popular feature films get full within minutes of the bookings coming on line, so if you want to see these make sure you find out when this is and get your button clicking finger ready.

  1. Queue up

If you don’t manage to book online there’s still hope. There are always people who are too hungover to make morning screenings, or too drunk to make evening ones. And so, if there is something that you really want to see but didn’t manage to reserve, get there at least half an hour early and queue up to get in. It usually works.

  1. It rains

Annecy is nestled amongst a jaw dropping mountain landscape around a stunning lake that would make any postcard jealous, but this also means that there is more rainfall there than your average French town. Umbrellas and waterproof jackets are extremely useful.

  1. Swimming trunks

Of course, if you get lucky and it’s sunny then it would be rude not to go for a swim in the lake. The water can be bloody cold though!

  1. MIFA

If you just want to go to Annecy to watch a load of animation and meet lovely people in the bars afterwards (what I did this year), then you don’t need to worry about this. But, if you want to try and get a bit more out of your time there, it’s worth paying the extra money to get a MIFA accreditation. This will get you entry to more of the industry focused events and networking sessions than a normal pass. Handy if you are a director or a writer looking for funding or collaboration for your next film. The best way to do it is to have a film in the show, and then you get it all for free! Simple as that…

  1. Build up your alcohol tolerance before you go

This is obviously not strictly necessary, and no one forces you to drink. But at least half of the fun of Annecy happens in the bars and restaurants around town – of which there are millions. If you’re like me and a main reason for going is to make new animator friends, then you might well end up having the odd glass of wine.

  1. Plan your escape

Just like the hotels, transport can also get very booked up. If you are coming from the UK, many people opt to fly in to Geneva in Switzerland and get the bus from there to Annecy. Keep in mind that local buses and trains are a bit of a nightmare. There is a special shuttle service in place, and this is probably the best way to do it. Again, make sure you book this in plenty of time. If you don’t you might end up getting stung for a rather expensive taxi.

  1. Be ready to talk

The more people you talk to, the more you’ll get out of it. If you’re standing in a queue to get in to a screening, turn around and say hello to whomever is behind you. You never know what doors it might open up. If you want to talk about your own film ideas, make sure you have a quick, sharp way of explaining it otherwise people might get bored. Ask people about what they’re working on, this is most film makers favourite subject. Have business cards to hand and even a pen to scribble notes on other people’s cards after they give it to you to help you remember who the hell they were three days later.